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Roach races important part of Summerfest 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

ROACHDALE -- For a second year in a row, a great tradition will return to the town of Roachdale on June 26 -- its once famous roach races.

Considered to be a big part of the success of Roachdale's Summerfest 2010, the races put the town on the map back in 1981.

Over a short span of time, the race became so popular it appeared on a segment of "Good Morning America" and "Across Indiana." Articles appeared in numerous newspapers including a full-length feature in the Living Section of the Indianapolis Star. It even garnered a write-up in Ripley's Believe It or Not. Over 300 people attended the race in 1987.

There are several stories about the beginnings of this event according to three-time race winner Larry Kersey.

One story is that a group of Lions Club members were trying to keep themselves warm by chasing cockroaches around.

Another, and more likely, story is that this same group was sitting around trying to think of a gimmick for the Fourth of July carnival and someone suggested a roach race.

Next thing anyone knew, they were mapping out an oval track on a four by eight piece of plywood. Steve Irwin and Jim Holland made the board (which is now housed in the Putnam County Museum). It was painted to look like the I-465 loop in Indianapolis.

The races are a simple process. Entries are made, participants marked with nail polish and then placed in a plastic container that is put in the center of the board. The container is lifter and racers are cheered on. The first roach to reach the perimeter of the board is declared the winner of each heat.

Many people dressed up their roaches. Kersey added blinders and a saddle to his roach Turkey Merle. Another person glued a top hat made out of paper to his racer's shell.

"People made roach castles and little houses. One guy had hula dancers lead his roach in for the race," said Kersey.

Even at last year's race people showed up with roach jewelry and special costumes.

Kersey was immortalized in a song sung to the tune of "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy" by a group of three local girls who sounded like the Andrews Sisters. It includes a line about Kersey.

"Kersey's here so let's give him a cheer and start the race. Get your bugs and run and let's have lots of fun at the Roachdale Fourth of July."

When the Roachdale Lions Club disbanded around 1996, their 4th of July festival and the roach race died out.

Last year Roachdale resident Connie Edwards and her family determined they were going to re-organized the roach races and were instrumental in pulling the event together last year.

The races are a big part of Summerfest 2010 slated for June 25.

The races are not the only exciting event at Summerfest 2010 this year. On the evening prior, June 26 the VFW will offer DJ entertainment from 4 to 10 p.m.

There are plenty of food vendors on Saturday along with a parade, small vet animal clinic, car seat checks, stagecoach rides, cornhole tourney, lots of games for all ages and a teen dance in the evening.

With plenty of food vendors signed up the group is still looking for local artisans, commercial vendors, school groups and nonprofit organizations who would like to have a booth at the daylong event.

Cost for a 10 x 10 booth space is $10. Vendors who rent three or more booths get a 25 percent reduction. Hours for vendors are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

"This is a great way for groups or organizations to make money," said Committee Member Bonnie Yahraus.

Anyone interested in a booth or who needs more information can contact Yahraus at 522-1430 or Dianna Gorrell at 435-2813.

For information about the Roach Race or parade contact Connie Edwards at 522-1781 or by e-mail at scedwards@tds.net.



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